How Was War Declared in Ancient Times?

In ancient times, war was declared through various means. It was a time when communication wasn’t as easy as it is today, and therefore, nations had to rely on different methods to declare war. Let’s take a closer look.

Verbal Declaration

The most common way to declare war in ancient times was through verbal declaration. This was done by sending emissaries or messengers to the enemy nation’s territory with a message of war. The emissary would deliver the message, which would be a formal declaration of war, and then return back to their own nation.

Written Declaration

In some cases, written declarations were used instead of verbal ones. A written declaration would be sent on a scroll or parchment and delivered by an envoy or messenger. The document would outline the reasons for going to war and provide details about what actions would be taken against the enemy.

Sending an Ultimatum

Sometimes, before declaring war, nations would send an ultimatum to their enemy. An ultimatum is a final demand that if not met, will result in severe consequences. This could include demands such as returning stolen property or releasing prisoners of war.

Symbolic Gestures

In certain cultures, symbolic gestures were used to declare war. For example, in ancient Greece, if one city-state wanted to declare war on another city-state, they might send a spear wrapped in black cloth. This symbolized that they were ready for battle.

Ceremonial Acts

In some cases, ceremonial acts were used to declare war. For example, during the Middle Ages in Europe, knights might ride up to the enemy castle and challenge them to battle. This was known as ‘challenging the field.’

The Consequences of War Declarations

Regardless of how it was declared, war had serious consequences for all involved. It resulted in loss of life, destruction of property, and major disruptions to daily life. However, declaring war was sometimes necessary to protect a nation’s interests.


In ancient times, declaring war was a serious business. It could be done through verbal or written means, or through symbolic gestures or ceremonial acts.

Regardless of how it was done, the consequences were always severe. Today, we have more advanced methods of communication and diplomacy that make it easier to resolve conflicts peacefully.